Pue­blo West primed for ti­tle de­fense

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle New­man

For Pue­blo West bas­ket­ball, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

De­spite a No. 1 seed, the Cy­clones were per­haps a tad un­der­es­ti­mated head­ing into the 4A state tour­na­ment last year, when they ran the ta­ble to the pro­gram’s first state ti­tle. But this win­ter, the team is very much on ev­ery­one’s radar, as they’ve been atop the Den­ver Post Power Rank­ings all sea­son long while also car­ry­ing the weight of an en­tire com­mu­nity bank­ing on a re­peat.

Vastly changed ex­pec­ta­tions, but so far, the same re­sults: The skilled Cy­clones (7-0) re­main un­de­feated head­ing into the Ram­part Tour­na­ment start­ing on Jan. 5, de­spite early-sea­son ad­ver­sity brought about by an ar­ray of in­juries.

“It’s very dif­fer­ent than last year, be­cause last year we flew un­der the radar, and we knew what we had but I don’t know if any­body else quite did,” Pue­blo West coach Bob Tyler said. “We just kept climb­ing and climb­ing, but this year we’ve been put at No. 1 right off the bat and it seems like every day we’re just try­ing to sur­vive.”

Star se­nior guard David Si­men­tal missed four games and played lim­ited min­utes in oth­ers, but should be healthy com­ing out of the hol­i­day break, but the Cy­clones have had plenty of other guys step up. Most no­tably, the play of junior guards Nieyeme Smyer-Wil­liams and Pierre Tay­lor give off the early im­pres­sion that this year’s team is con­sid­er­ably more dan­ger­ous than last year’s squad.

“Pierre’s putting up about 20 points and five re­bounds a game and has just been play­ing out of this world,” Tyler said, “while Nieyeme has taken on that point guard role since David’s been side­lined, and he’s helped us in a lot of ways other than what shows on the stat sheet.”

Si­men­tal, though, re­mains the epit­ome of the team’s blue-col­lar, de­ter­mined nature. He has four Divi­sion II of­fers but is hold­ing out for a Divi­sion I op­por­tu­nity to come along. He’s the best col­lege prospect on a team with many ballers who are ca­pa­ble of com­pet­ing at the next level, but none of them be­sides Si­men­tal have any of­fers yet.

“It’s go­ing to be re­ally hard for David to have as great of a sea­son as he had last year, be­cause he has a lot more tal­ent sur­round­ing him right now — there’s just a lim­ited num­ber of shots for our play­ers to take,” Tyler said. “But he re­ally wants to go Divi­sion I, and he’s weighed his odds — he doesn’t know if he wants to go a year or two at junior col­lege and then see if he can make the jump, or what ex­actly he’s go­ing to do, he just knows what his mind-set is.”

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